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01-08-2008, 06:41 PM
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(1/1/85 cut off)

1- Alexandre Pato- striker, Brazil, Milan- 2/9/89
If half of what Milan’s staff has been suggesting between the lines of their comments along the last few months is true, that will be more than enough to justify his position on top of the Italian prospects list. In fact, Alexandre Pato’s upcoming debut must be by now the most anticipated one in ages in serie A.
Amazing technique, tricky yet essential, impressive quickness, CAN shoot with both feet, good header especially for the kind of player he is, this kid seems to possess all the likes of the elects. Forgetting for a moment about the surrounding pressure, with Milan it also looks like he fell into the perfect environment, with the right veterans giving advice and a hole in the starting lineup at his position.
Deemed to be Shevchenko's (late) replacement, Pato looks indeed like the perfect solution for that matter; great speed with the ball will make him a threat on counter attacks more or less like Sheva was before adding some unnecessary weight in his upper body, but he is potentially better in building and linking the play with the midfield. Btw, he should remind Milan fans of the Ukrainian in the way he celebrates, often just raising up his right arm.

2- Mario Balotelli- striker, Italy, Inter- 12/8/90
Ok, i’m really going out on a limb here and call this completely unproven 17yrs old the second most promising prospect currently playing in Italy. Fact is, the guy seems to have the likes of the next big thing out of Italy. Born in Palermo and raised since when 2yrs old by Italian adoptive parents, Mario does Barwuah as original (disclaimed) name, being natural son of a couple of immigrants from Ghana, but has never seen Africa in his life. Apparently, Inter barely preceded Barcelona and even more so Fiorentina in their quest for the 15 yrs old. The Viola already even had an agreemeent with his team (Lumezzane) , but could not complete the deal with the player and his family, that later chose Inter instead. Two years later, the babbling from Inter is they expect him to be the nerazzurra answer to Pato.
Balotelli amazingly mixes height, power and athleticism with quick feet and skills. His potential alone looks worth the #2 spot in my opinion. That’s not guarantee of anything of course, however so far in his career he has forced all his coaching staffs to burn every step ahead of his age, starting out at 15 in the pros in serie C, scoring bunches with Inter’s Allievi hence joining Inter’s Primavera at 16, and now knocking on the first team’s door at 17 despite a stacked roster. With his 189cms he was a huge threat in the air among juniors, but his headers need some work to be equally efficient at the next level; his powerful shot seems ready instead.
It looks like the guy had the fortune to be raised by a responsible and close family, something that should reduce the risk for a poor attitude or a derailment before first success. The only interview i saw so far (quite hilarious listenting to a black guy speaking with a distinct accent from Brescia btw!) would suggest he is a guy aware of his value, with the personality to take advantage of it, but able to criticize himself and to recognize where work and improvements are needed the most. I’ll add that his current coach (Mancini) must know a thing or two about facing notoriety and success at 16-17. A singularity of this kid is that curiously enough he never celebrates his goals. I doubt that will last when he will start scoring more important ones though, i have an hard time picturing a youngster that scores in a derby against Milan and doesn't celebrate.

3- Giuseppe Rossi- striker, Italy, Villareal- 1/2/87
Much safer pick here, still eligible after playing only around 10 games so far in La Liga, Rossi was off an amazing start for Villareal before going down to a knee injury, now healed. The Spanish side acquired him for 10 milions this Summer, but Manchester is said to still retain some kind of option on his rights.
The diminutive striker possesses great quickness and instincts, knows how to move around the net without the ball, has good shot and nice coordination. He was the main reason why Parma avoided relegation last season after getting him in January. Showed personality and guts leading the team while playing the role of the prodigal son.
On the U21 side was kind of misused imo, as because of team needs he played more of a lateral attacking position whereas I think he needs to play closer to the opposite net to not waste his burst in the midfield. Seems to have good attitude and passion for the game, determined and focused in his quest for success, I really like the guy. Hopefully in the future will find more success on the senior national team than the one he had (missed) so far with Italian clubs’ squads. He just needs to not add weight (no evidence of that so far) to not lose a step in his acceleration.

4- Riccardo Montolivo- midfielder, Italy, Fiorentina- 18/1/85
Developed in Atalanta’s Primavera, he was acquired by Fiorentina a couple of seasons ago and at first didn’t receive any playing time for months.. fortunately that’s a far memory by now. Currently pivotal for his team’s success, Montolivo has been improving and polishing his game exactly as hoped when I placed him at #7 in July 2004.
What you have now is basically a pure midfielder gifted with the skills of an offensive midfielder. Montolivo is now a good runner who regularly shows very good commitment to contribute on the defensive side of the game. He still makes too many errors here and there considering his very good technique, too often not playing the ball with the necessary determination like he was just training.. has been improving on that aspect but needs to get rid of that inclination to reduce as much as possible risky turnovers.
Despite his lanky body structure, ankles’ troubles have been the only injuries bothering him during recent seasons (nothing too serious as fortunately surgery were never required, nor feared), so there should not be the same concerns surrounding ’84 born former U21 fellow midfilelder Aquilani.
A creative midfielder who can dish the decisive last pass to the striker as well as build the play from behind through long passes, Riccardo also possesses a really dangerous shot and sometimes is able to hit the net even off awkward coordination.
Everything suggests he has a very good attitude to go along with his skills and I expect him to be a regular, key starter in the Italian senior national team midfield for years to come.

5- Edison Cavani- striker, Uruguay, Palermo- 14/2/87
Not getting enough consideration in Italy so far imo, i’m not going with the (missing) hype here, rather on what I’ve seen.. surprisingly enough Cavani was benched more often than not during Colantuono’s tenure in Palermo (now sacked), yet I couldn’t find anything wrong with his play this year. When he joined last season I was not expecting more than a dangerous scorer, that’s where Cavani mostly surprised me as he showed surprising running, stamina and dedication when he was (mis)used as lateral midfielder for a couple of months. He is a dangerous shooter, he can finish and score, but there is more than that. I would be surprised to not see Edison enjoy a long and successful career in Europe, probably quite soon on a bigger side than Palermo.

6- Ezequiel Lavezzi- striker, Argentina, Napoli- 3/5/85
Took the league by storm at the start of the season, being probably the most impressive player in the league for a while. Looks to be kinda back down to earth now, but it’s hard to keep him this low after what he showed so far with Napoli. I’m relying almost exclusively on highlights here, so that hurts quite a bit my confidence in the judgement, but a few things are evident: he is not only quick, he has surprising amazing speed with the ball, is a good dribbler who goes hard to the net, when he is on he shows a mulish attitude on the pitch (quite rare for a forward), yet can pass the ball to end his play when it’s due; is a very dangerous shooter, looks lethal from close range and is quick and alert around the net. For the kind of player he is, it looks essential for his effectiveness to keep this high pace and acceleration along his career.

7- Cristian Zapata- central defender, Colombia, Udinese- 30/9/86
I hyped this guy on these boards after catching a couple of games of his national team in the 2005 U20 WC.. apparently someone within Udinese had the same liking as the Columbian defender was signed for little money the following Summer. As a result, they have a potential stud in their hands now. The guy oozes power, has very good pace, nice anticipation and is pretty good in the air. Has been growing from the shy junior he was when he joined, becoming more and more comfortable at the new level and in the new country. Still a bit naive sometimes in the penalty area and could use more aggressiveness and consistency, but the potential is through the roof as it looks like he is quite far from having fully exploited it yet. He should learn to take more responsabilities with the ball; this year coach Marino likes his team to play the ball, hopefully that, besides exposim him and testing even more his defensive game, will help developing that aspect of Cristian's game.
Juventus has been reportedly knocking on Udinese offices’ door for some time already.

Kind of a drop here, then it’s very close from #8 to #15/20

8- Lorenzo De Silvestri– rightback, Italy, Lazio- 23/5/88
Well, at least in terms of potential, the drop is not there as for #8.
Very promising and actually already very good when going forward, he likes to go for the end line to try to set up his strikers from there; A LOT of improvement is needed on the defensive side of his game, but this kid is an amazing athlete who can join offense like a freight train. He models his game after Zambrotta, and like him he can cover both flanks, even if in his case the preference is for the right side. Gritty, pretty good header for a player covering a lateral position, seems to possess a very encouraging attitude to work on his needs and to keep his determination high to eventually fulfill his potential. A fan favourite and considered a true 'laziale', he shows unusual personality, apparently really different from your typical soccer prospect on center stage, and at 19 he speaks 4 languages besides Italian (German, English and to a lesser extent Spanish and French).

9- Zdravko Kuzmanovic- midfielder, Serbia, Fiorentina- 22/9/87
I’m relying on very limited viewing, but Kuzmanovic looks like a really solid prospect. Tall, maybe a tad slow, but seems to be a VERY complete midfilelder, even more so for his age. Tactical sense, confidence and personality, good defensively as well as at playing the ball.. and when you consider for how little time he has been playing at top level so far, the room for improvement is obvious.

10- Marco Andreolli- central defender, Italy, Roma(Inter)- 10/6/86
This is the first young Italian defender in quite a long time that raised for me some hopes Italy would finally get another good one.. strong header, well built physically, strong on the man, good anticipation, apparently the required mentality, focus and consistency for a defender.. did really well in his first appearances with Inter senior team.. then came the last disappointing 10 months, starting with the anticlimactic U21 Euro finals and following with a non-sense transfer to Roma this Summer. I really don't get why he was loaned to another team where he wouldn't play much either, the injuries he suffered this season didn’t help..
Anyway, for now i’ll keep him in my top 10, hoping that he will get back on track soon, maybe getting loaned to a different team this month (not that I heard anything about that so far).

Last edited by helicecopter: 02-13-2008 at 04:31 AM.
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